Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Strong May Sales - Is GDP to Follow?

Word is out that in May, retail sales in the U.S. rose for a second straight month. They were up 0.5 percent from April and 2.5 percent from a year ago. Given all the concern over the May jobs report, and its implications for the economy, the retail-sales figures were a relief.

The month-on-month number was fueled largely by a 2.1 percent rise in sales at gas stations, even though gas-station sales are still down 9.5 percent from a year ago. In the larger sense, though, the pattern these numbers are sketching out is getting very familiar.

We've seen a lot of weak winters followed by spring rebounds, highlighted by the 0.8 percent GDP number from the first quarter. That's the third straight weak first quarter we've seen, but GDP in the second quarter of 2015 was 3.9 percent, and in 2014 it was 4.6 percent. Based on those retail numbers, we could be in for a similar pattern in 2016.

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